Q: When does the annual open enrollment period for making changes to Medicare close?
A: The annual open enrollment period for making changes to Medicare plans and Part D prescription drug coverage for 2013 ends Dec. 7.
If you still need help in selecting new coverage there are just three days left to make that change. Assistance will be available at the Area Agency on Aging office at 646 County Square Drive in Ventura from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 5 and 6. You can also call Medicare at 800-633-4227 for assistance.
Q: I am not sure if I am required to take a distribution from my retirement account. Can you help?
A: You must begin taking distributions at age 70 ½ or face stiff IRS-imposed penalties.
If you will reach age 70 ½ by Dec. 31, you have until April 1, 2013 to begin taking your required minimum distributions known as RMDs from your account. This will meet your 2012 distribution requirement.
Once distributions begin you must take them annually by Dec. 31. That means that you will need to take your next RMD by Dec. 31, 2013, regardless of when your 2012 RMD was taken.
RMD rules apply to traditional IRAs, rollover IRAs, simple IRAs, SEP IRAs, 403(b) plans and certain employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans.
Check with the holder of your retirement account to determine what action you need to take and when.
Q: In the past few months I have had several friends laid up by falls. Do you have any hints on how to avoid falls in the home?
A: A fall can occur in any room of the house but several rooms can prove to be more dangerous than others. Let’s take the smallest room in the house, the bathroom. A wet, soapy floor, tub or shower can be more slippery that a skating rink, and just getting in or out of the shower or tub can throw one off balance. All bathrooms should have grab bars, and skid-proof flooring would help eliminate the skating rink condition.
If installing grab bars, have them installed by an expert. A poorly installed grab bar is worse than not having grab bars at all.
The next most dangerous room is probably the kitchen. Again, spills on the floor can make the floor slippery. Partially open drawers and cabinet doors can throw seniors off balance when they trying to avoid them or bump into them. A little effort to make sure that spills are wiped up and drawers and doors are always closed when not in use will help to eliminate a dangerous situation.
Stairs can be deadly. There can be loose handrails, slippery conditions, worn carpeting, poor lighting and objects left on the steps. Handrails should go from the first step to the last step, and they should be securely attached to the wall. Light switches should be at both the top and bottom of the stairs so that they can be turned on when ascending or descending.
Other rooms can create dangerous conditions because of poor lighting, cluttered walkways, lamp cords, and throw or scatter rugs. A periodic review of each room in the home might help ensure a fall-free environment.
1-3 p.m. Dec. 5: Brain Fitness Seminar, Thousand Oaks Council on Aging meeting, Civic Arts Plaza board room, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks.
Free preview classes on brain fitness will be offered as follows:
1-2:30 p.m. Dec. 12, Agoura Hills Recreation Center, 30610 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Agoura Hills. For information or reservations call 818-597-7361.
1:30-3 p.m. Jan. 7, Borchard Community Center, 190 N. Reino Road, Newbury Park. To reserve space call 381-2791.